Settlements reached in Denver, Arizona ULP cases

ASLIU BULLETIN

Denver

The National Labor Relations Board trial over unfair labor practice allegations against Purple Communications’ Denver center never got started yesterday. At the urging of the administrative law judge presiding over the case, representatives of Purple, the Board and ASLIU entered into discussions to determine whether there was any possibility of settlement. Turns out there was. This in a case where everyone thought a negotiated settlement was a virtual impossibility.

The off-the-record discussions began with Purple and the Union finding there was hope to reach agreement on one minor portion of the multi-charge case. That slight progress led to more and by 5:00 p.m. an approved settlement agreement was signed by all parties. The Board attorneys were involved in all aspects of the negotiations as they were the party responsible for prosecuting the charges and the settlement had to meet NLRB standards and be approved by the Regional Director.

Once an official Board notice is finalized, details of the settlement will be posted for 60 days in the Denver center. The notice includes a statement of employee rights, including an affirmation that the company will not subject employees to “excessive monitoring,” discipline or firing because of membership or activity in the union.

While the company did not admit to violating the law, remedies were negotiated for virtually all of the charges. Final warnings were reduced to verbals that are to be sealed, along with another employees’ verbal warning, and considered inactive. A 7-day suspension was also reduced to a verbal warning, which will be considered inactive for all purposes. The lost pay for that employee is to be reimbursed. An employee who was denied participation in the Visiting VI program will have 13 hours PTO restored.

The agreement also acknowledges employees’ rights to place union materials off-camera in their workstation and to discuss investigatory meetings with other employees once an investigation is over.

ASLIU employees and representative attending the hearing were pleased with both the outcome and with the willingness of Purple’s corporate representative and attorney to tackle the tough issues in an open and constructive way. The Denver center manager was not present for the discussions.

Arizona

In less dramatic fashion, a pre-trial settlement was also reached this week on unfair labor practice charges at the Purple center in Tempe. A Board notice will also be posted in that case. The charges concerned managements’ removal of union materials posted around the workplace and orders to employees to refrain from such displays. The Board posting will affirm employees’ rights to prominently post and display union-related materials in places like the break room, community events wall, outer walls of cubicles, and work-center table.

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No deal yet for ASL interpreters

Our ASLIU members have been bargaining with Purple Communications for months.  From left: Margie Brooks, Martin Yost, Michelle Caplette and Mary Jane Moore.  Seated from left: Lindsey Antle, Laurie Rivard and chief spokesperson Bruce Meachum. Photo courtesy Martin Yost 2014.

Our ASLIU members have been bargaining with Purple Communications for months. From left: Margie Brooks, Martin Yost, Michelle Caplette and Mary Jane Moore. Seated from left: Lindsey Antle, Laurie Rivard and chief spokesperson Bruce Meachum. Photo courtesy Martin Yost 2014.

Negotiators for Local 39521′s ASL Interpreters Unit and Purple Communications inched closer to a contract when they met in San Francisco on April 9, but are still separated by at least two very tough issues: health and safety, and wages.

The Company did make a serious effort to address the log-in/utilization requirements that is so demanding on our members’ health. Unfortunately, the proposal, based solely on utilization, did not go far enough to assure the ASLIU team that it would prevent most injuries. After acknowledging management’s effort and expressing appreciation that the Company team was willing to explore alternative ideas to address the safety concerns, the Union presented its own revised proposal. After a caucus, the management team said they would do more work on the problem and promised to get back to us.

On the wage front, management continues to indicate openly at the table that it will seek a future wage cut. The latest Purple proposal is for a freeze on wages with a reopener on the subject in November 2014 for wages to be paid starting in January 2015.

The Union’s proposal is for a modest increase in wages plus the establishment of a minimum pay rate.

Health-Benefits-Plan Changes at Issue

Prior to meeting at the bargaining table, Purple notified ASLIU that it wished to implement certain changes to the health-care plan, some of which the Union found objectionable. Those include an increase in the percentage of premium cost for dependent coverage to be borne by the employee. Purple currently pays 75% of the premium, with the employee picking up the other 25%. Under the revised plan, the employee would pay 30%.

Other changes the Union objected to are increases in the deductibles of Core PPO for both in and out of network, and an increase in the Buy-Up out-of-network deductible.

The changes are slated to be implemented on May 1, after an open-enrollment period beginning on April 18.

ASLIU negotiators made it clear to the Company that it is not interested in concessionary changes to the health-care plan at this time, especially since we are still without agreement on a full contract. Management negotiators were told that we wish to maintain the status quo until such time as the changes, and the contract, are fully negotiated.

No Meetings Scheduled

No new meetings were scheduled, partially because both sides are preparing for an unfair-labor-practice hearing before the National Labor Relations Board scheduled to begin in Denver on April 22. That hearing will involve numerous complaints issued by the Board against Denver management.

Even though no meetings are set, the two sides agreed to continue a dialogue over the remaining issues.

Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 ASL Interpreters Unit

National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair        Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair

Laurie Rivard, Oakland: National Vice Chair            Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair           Margie Brooks, At-Large member

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

 

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Fresno Bee members and management move toward agreement

Your Guild negotiators moved closer to a tentative agreement on a new, three-year contract with the Fresno Bee on Wednesday.

While some details still need to be worked out, a formal agreement could be reached as soon as next week.

During Wednesday’s talks, management presented a comprehensive, final offer to the Guild, but agreed to address several concerns that the Guild raised in its response to the final offer.

We expect to hear from management by early next week and, if a tentative agreement is reached, we’ll send a detailed bulletin reporting all the changes that have been negotiated. We’ll also announce a date for a membership meeting to answer questions about the settlement, as well as the time and place for a ratification vote.

Please stay tuned for further details, and thanks for your continued support through our negotiations.

Unit Chair Bethany Clough and Guild representative Darren Carroll represented the Guild in Wednesday’s talks.

Bob Ford, John Rich and Mark Ochinero represented management.

Sides talking again

ASLIU Bargaining Update # 15

The Guild's newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado. They began talks with management Tuesday.

The Guild’s ASLIU unit members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado.

Slight progress was made Thursday in San Francisco as Purple Communications and ASLIU negotiators met for the first time since November.

The meeting, scheduled at the union’s request, began with ASLIU presenting a revised economic proposal and the company making a proposal to amend the health-care plan. Purple wants a quick resolution to the health-care issue because the company-wide open season is scheduled in mid-April with the changes to go into effect in May.

The union team declined to entertain changes to the health-care system unless they were negotiated as part of a complete contract.

The meeting adjourned in mid-afternoon because the management team, acknowledging what it called “significant” revisions in the union’s proposals, said they would have to have further internal discussions before they could give a full response.

The company did move closer on some issues and agreed to a union proposal that will stop the practice of assigning both English and Spanish platforms to tri-lingual interpreters working on May 10, Mexican Mother’s Day, which is a very busy day for the Spanish platform.

With the health-care issue looming, the sides agreed to meet in San Francisco again on April 9.

Change in ASLIU Team

A welcome addition to the ASLIU team is Laurie Rivard, who has replaced Margie Brooks as the Oakland National Vice Chair. Because of her tenure at the table and her valuable contribution to the process throughout these negotiations, the committee asked Margie to continue as an at-large member. She has graciously agreed.

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PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair     Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair

Laurie Rivard, Oakland: National Vice Chair            Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair            Margie Brooks, At-Large member

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

 

Unfair Labor Practice Hearing Scheduled in Denver

Purple communications icon 2013The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint charging Purple Communications with violating labor law at its Denver facility. The complaint involves multiple charges ranging from retaliation against union activists with closer scrutiny and discipline to failure to negotiate with the union over implementation of the 2% utilization rule and changes to the teaming policy.

The complaint also asserts that the company violated the law by ordering employees not to discuss details of their disciplinary investigation meetings with other employees and ordering them not to copy other employees on emails to management relating to terms and conditions of employment. Employees have the right to discuss all aspects of employment with other employees in the interest of understanding and improving their working conditions.

The company further broke the law, according to the complaint, when it ordered employees to remove union-related material from areas that are commonly used to display other personal items.

A hearing over the allegations was ordered to begin on April 15, but the company has asked that the start date be delayed until mid-May. (It can’t do early May because it’ll be busy defending itself against other unfair labor practice charges at a Board-ordered hearing in Phoenix starting on May 6.

Back to the Bargaining Table

After a four-month hiatus, negotiations between ASLIU and Purple Communications are set to resume March 27 at a meeting in the Bay area. The exact location for the meeting, scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., has yet to be determined.

PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

 

 

 

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Monterey Herald members fight for fair wages and affordable benefits

Guild members (l to r) Lucia Fernandez, Paul Hersh, Phillip Molnar, Claudia Melendez Salinas and James Herrera turned in the signatures to publisher Gary Omernick. Photo courtesy Guild member 2014.

Guild members (l to r) Lucia Fernandez, Paul Hersh, Phillip Molnar, Claudia Melendez Salinas and James Herrera turned in the signatures to publisher Gary Omernick. Photo courtesy Guild member 2014.

Guild members of the Monterey County Herald delivered a petition asking for a fair pay increase and a reasonable cap on what employees pay for health care to publisher Gary Omernick on Monday.

The petition was signed by 38 employees, or 82 percent of guild members, and came from all departments: packaging, newsroom, circulation and advertising.

The union has been extremely fired up lately, frustrated by company proposals that would freeze pay for 18 months and eliminate the cap on what employees pay for medical insurance.

Members’ base pay has been frozen for more than three years, during which it was forced to take two week-long unpaid furloughs — a loss of roughly 4 percent of take-home pay.  In the three years before that, base pay increased by 1 percent annually, but was offset by two week-long unpaid furloughs and an increase in the employee share of medical premiums.

With the petition, the guild wants to show Mr. Omernick and Alden Global Capital how many Herald employees are committed to achieving a fair contract at the still-profitable newspaper.

The company recently announced it would lay off five copy editors in favor of outsourcing the work to low-wage, non-union jobs in Chico, Calif.

The Herald employees believe the Monterey County community deserves an excellent newspaper edited, reported and designed by local workers — not an operation continually beset by layoffs at the discretion of a Manhattan finance officer.

With this petition, the Guild hopes Mr. Omernick will take to heart its proposal for 3-percent raises each year for the next three years, health care premium costs capped at 34 percent, and severance pay of two weeks’ pay per year of total service up to 30 weeks.

Negotiations with the company continue Friday.

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ASLIU members say mediation with management a flop

Purple Communications Bargaining Update # 14

A meeting with a federal mediator last Friday ended with no real progress being made in the negotiations between Purple Communications and ASLIU.

The meeting started with the union once again stating that the fundamental issue to interpreters was safety. ASLIU chief spokesperson, Bruce Meachum, told the management team that the union is very flexible on economic issues and is confident the parties could reach an agreement quickly if the company would bend a little on the KPI standards.

The meeting ended when company negotiators showed no signs of budging on any part of the “production standards.”

The only real substance to come out of the half-day session was a comprehensive company proposal that would include: All of the provisions of the contract already agreed upon; no significant change to log-in or KPI standards; no changes in current economic policies (health benefits; PTO/VTO; holidays; 401(k); etc.); wages to remain unchanged through June 2014; and the parties would reopen negotiations in June to determine the wages to be paid beginning in July 2014.

The company’s previous proposal was essentially identical except for the wage guarantee, which would have been only through December of this year.

So, where do we go from here?

It is not unusual for negotiations to hit a snag, especially when the bargaining is for a first contract. When that happens, the union and its members face the same choice we have: Accept what we’ve gained so far, or fight for more.

The bargaining team is proud of its accomplishments to date. We and the company have laid a good foundation for a long-term contractual relationship. But, in our view, it’s not yet enough. We are not willing to accept a contract without some relief in the so-called production standards that are injuring our members, and we’re betting that you aren’t either. We intend to fight on.

In this struggle, our best asset is our unity. We’ve had that all along and it’s made our accomplishments at the bargaining table possible. It’s always been all of us working together. Let’s continue that new tradition and show our support whenever we can. Let’s finish this mission we’ve undertaken just as we began. Together.

PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

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Mercury News unit ratifies contract extension

San Jose Mercury News guild members today ratified an extension of our contract through October 1, 2014.

The agreement passed by a 2 to 1 margin (45 in favor, 25 opposed), with 50 percent of the 138 eligible guild members voting.

Under the terms of the extension between the Mercury News chapter of the Pacific Media Workers Guild and San Jose Mercury News LLC, employees who use all of their accrued vacation by Dec. 31, 2013, will be eligible for two paid personal days to be used between January 1 and October 1 of 2014.

As with our previous contract extension, the days would not be accrued, meaning they would not be paid out if unused in the event of separation from employment.  The two days would be forfeited if not used by October 1, 2014. All other terms of the current contract are extended under the agreement.

Thank you for your participation and support.

 

Karen de Sa, Mark Emmons, Lisa Krieger, Mike Cassidy and Nhat Meyer served on the bargaining committee, with assistance from Darren Carroll of the Guild’s international staff.

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ASL interpreters at Purple fight for a fair contract

ASL interpreters demo at Purple Communications

DENVER - Negotiations for a first contract for Video Relay Services interpreters at Purple Communications have stalled over safety issues that the company calls “economics.”

Instead of making a legitimate counter to union’s proposal for safer interpreting quotas and professional level wages, Purple negotiators told the union team last week that if they were to counter now with their own wage proposal it would be with something that interpreters would not like.

Predicting that communications companies Sorenson and Z will decrease wages in the near future, Purple negotiator Bob Kane said they will not pay wages considered substantially above the market. Purple negotiators said it’s an economic reality.

“We haven’t claimed inability to pay,” Kane responded when challenged to show the books. “It’s a lack of willingness to pay above the market.”

Translation: Purple can afford to pay decent wages, but the company leadership doesn’t want to see any decrease in profit margin.

This isn’t new. Every time the FCC determines that VRS vendors are making ridiculous amounts of money and makes changes to the program, management insulates itself from decreases by having the people who actually earn that money take the hit.Up until now, management has gotten away with that approach because employees had no real way to fight back. That all changed when four Purple centers – in California, Arizona and Colorado – voted to unionize.

So, fight back we will, and we won’t do it alone.

Video Interpreters will begin their campaign for a fair contract by asking each and every employee at the four unionized centers to show their colors and to take part in other legally protected concerted activities when asked.

At the same time, interpreters will work to enlist the support of the people who can have the most impact on the company’s attitude: Purple’s consumers. They, after all, are the ones who will be most affected by the decrease in interpreting quality caused by the one-two punch of KPI-caused fatigue and injury and the use of uncertified interpreters.

On a more visible front, Purple-sponsored events will now have a new feature: Union informational pickets and leafleters.

To be clear: Members haven’t been asked to authorize a strike, but rather put serious economic pressure on the company in other ways.

It won’t end there. And remember, however long it takes to get a fair resolution, we will last one day longer. This contract has been given a very high priority by the Pacific Media Workers Guild and by the international union. Resources will not be lacking for this campaign.

Also during last week’s bargaining:

  • Management refused to budge on our proposals to soften what we believe to be dangerously demanding performance requirements.
  • To make matters even worse, in yet another blatant attempt to devalue the VRS interpreting profession, management announced that it intends to expand its “pilot program” of hiring non-certified interpreters to all centers.

PMWG ASLIU Unit National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair

Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair

Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair

Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

Denver AVC Jo Linda Greenfield joined the team for Tuesday’s session.

Purple Communications Bargaining Update #10

The Guild's newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado. They began talks with management Tuesday.

The Guild’s newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado.

SAN DIEGO _ Negotiations between the union and Purple Communications stalled this week over the issue of whether management-mandated meetings and unexpected work interruptions, like system crashes and power failures, should count against an employee’s log-in time and other performance standards.

The stage for the disagreement was set the previous week when the company announced at its non-union centers that it was changing the current policy to one that would not count some management meetings in the performance standards. In its announcement, the company said the same change would have to be negotiated in union centers.

The company’s move was an obvious response to a proposal to remove management meetings and the like from the performance standards requirements, which the union has had on the table since these negotiations began. While the union committee is happy that its pressure got the company to relax those standards for the non-union centers, the committee does not believe the change went far enough.

On Monday morning, management offered a proposal that would have mirrored the change at the non-union centers: all-staff meetings of over an hour, and on-site meetings called by upper-level management, would not count in the production standards.

The union’s counter to that proposal would remove all management-called meetings of over five minutes and all unexpected work interruptions from the production standards.

After some back and forth on the proposals, the company agreed to exclude unexpected interruptions of over 30 minutes from the production requirements, but stood firm on the meetings issue. The union responded with a proposal of 10 minutes or more on the interruptions issue, but also stood firm on the management meetings.

On Tuesday morning, the company team said they really didn’t have any further to go with the proposal. Company spokesman Bob Kane reiterated the company’s position that while the union views the KPI standards as a health-and-safety issue, management sees them as a matter of economics. He challenged the union team to come up with a solution that would not cost money.

“Sometimes health and safety costs money,” responded union spokesman Bruce Meachum. ”But we fully intend to get a contract,” Meachum said, “and that contract must have some relief in this area.”

Because many of the remaining issues to be negotiated are interrelated, the union committee decided it didn’t make sense to continue the negotiations that day and spent the rest of the time working on a comprehensive proposal, including economics, to present at the next session scheduled for September 16 and 17 in San Francisco.

Meachum acknowledged that the company has negotiated in good faith from the beginning, telling the management team that the union has appreciated the non-confrontational approach and would like to keep it that way.

__________

“Go Team!”

That’s the message a Denver VI texted to every member of the bargaining committee before negotiations began on Monday. It’s a good message for all of us. These negotiations are not just about those of us at the bargaining table. We’re just part of the team that includes every VI at these four centers. That’s the team that got us this far. That’s the team that, working together, will win a first-ever contract, not only for VIs at Purple, but for any VI anywhere. It’s a good and just cause and we are just the team to make it happen. Let’s all show our team spirit in the next few weeks. More on how to do that later. It’ll be easy and it’ll be fun.

Pacific Media Workers Guild Purple Communications Unit

National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair

Lindsey Antle, Denver, National Vice Chair

Margie Brooks, Oakland, National Vice Chair

Michelle Caplette, Arizona, National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego, National Vice Chair

Bruce Meachum, Pacific Media Workers Guild Representative, Chief Spokesperson

Joining the committee at these meetings was Norma Villegas, San Diego AVC.

San Diego VI and LBC member Teresa Mosti attended as an observer on Monday. Also attending the Monday session to show her and her organization’s support was Rebeca Vera, a San Diego Court Interpreter and Southern Vice President of the California Federation of Interpreters, one of the largest units of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.